The following information is applicable to the October 2023 administration of the Certified Legal Specialist Examination.
The Legal Specialist Exam includes both essay and multiple-choice questions and is administered in one day. The eight essay questions are administered two questions at a time in four one-hour sessions (four hours total). The 75 multiple-choice questions (MCQ) are administered in one 76-minute session to complete questions 1–38, and one 74-minute session to complete questions 39–75 (two and one-half hours total).
The Certified Legal Specialist Exam is made up of 13 specialty exams, where applicants sit for an exam in one of the following specialty areas:
Each exam tests whether an attorney has a proficient understanding of the key laws, rules, and procedures applicable to that area of law, and whether an answer based upon legal analysis and application of facts is sufficient.
The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization (CBLS) has established procedures to ensure a fair and accurate system of grading. All essay answers are evaluated by attorneys who are certified specialists in the area of law for which they are grading. Graders are supported by professional grading consultants in a tightly controlled process to maintain consistency.
Applicant anonymity is preserved throughout the grading process, including during the results reporting phase. Even after grading is complete, the graders do not learn the identity of any of the applicants, or whether a particular applicant actually took or passed the examination.
On the essay portion of the exam, applicants are graded on a scale of 1 through 5, with 5 being the top score. Thus, an applicant can earn up to five raw points on each of the eight essay questions, for a maximum of 40 raw points for all essay questions.
An applicant's multiple-choice raw score will be the number of items answered correctly; no penalty is deducted for incorrect multiple-choice answers. An applicant can earn up to 75 raw points on the multiple-choice questions.
Raw scores are scaled and then the total scaled score is calculated, using 75 percent of the essay scale score plus 25 percent of the MCQ scale score. Applicants need a total scaled score of 453 or higher to pass the exam.
All scores are automatically checked for mathematical errors. Applicants who receive a total scaled score of at least 440 but less than 453 points automatically have their examination responses reviewed a second time by a State Bar professional grading consultant who is a member of the reappraisal review team. The reappraisal review team member reviews the entire examination to verify the scores awarded and to determine whether, taken as a whole, the answers merit a pass or fail.
All reported results reflect final decisions.
The CBLS believes that its grading and administrative systems afford each applicant a full and fair opportunity to take the exam and fair and careful consideration of their answers on the exam and that no useful purpose would be served by further consideration by the CBLS.